Daily Archives: July 7, 2014

Questions about the Church: Is the Distinction between Clergy and Laity Biblical?

 

Neither the word clergy nor the word laity appears in the Bible. These are terms that are commonly used today to refer to “the person in the pulpit” versus “the people in the pews.” While believers have different callings and gifts (Romans 12:6), they are all servants of the Lord (Romans 14:4).

Paul considered himself a “brother” and “fellow servant” with Tychicus (Colossians 4:7). The same was true for Paul and Epaphras (Colossians 1:7). Ephroditus was Paul’s “brother, co-worker and fellow soldier” (Philippians 2:25). Paul and Timothy called themselves the “servants” of the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 4:5). Peter viewed Silas as his “faithful brother” (1 Peter 5:12). The apostles never talked in terms of “us” and “them” in the context of serving Christ. They considered themselves to be fellow laborers with all believers in the church.

The distinction between “professional ministry” and “lay ministry” arose when churches stopped identifying leaders out of their own congregations, and began “calling” them from other places. During at least the first century of the church’s history, most churches recognized God’s hand on their own members, qualifying and calling them into leadership roles. Almost every New Testament reference to local church leadership, whether “pastor,” “elder,” or “overseer,” reveals this to be so. For one example, compare 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and 5:17–20 with Acts 20:17–38. Titus 1:5–9 is another example.

Gradually, things changed until, in some parts of the Christian world, the “professional,” full-time ministers began to be identified as representing “The Church,” while the “non-professionals” were seen as adherents or attenders instead of as fellow servants of Jesus Christ. Out of this mindset grew the hierarchical system in which the distance between clergy and laity increased.

Bible passages such as 1 Corinthians 12 through 14, much of Ephesians, and Romans 12 ought to be kept in mind. All of these passages emphasize the real brotherhood of all believers in Jesus Christ and the humility that all need to demonstrate as we exercise our spiritual gifts and offices to bless each other.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Salvation: Why Did God Make Salvation Such a Narrow Path?

 

In Matthew 7:13–14, Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” This passage causes some to question the goodness of God. After all, if He really wants to save everyone, why didn’t He make it easier to be saved? Why doesn’t He simply let everyone into heaven?

When we read the word narrow, we tend to associate it with prejudicial selection. It sounds as though God has rated us all on some scale of acceptability and only allows a select few to enter His presence. However, few verses earlier, Jesus had told the same audience, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Jesus made it clear: the path to eternal life is open to everyone who asks.

However, the gate to heaven is “narrow” in the sense of having a particular requirement for entrance—faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is found only in the Person of Jesus Christ; He is the only way (John 14:6). The “wide” gate is non-exclusive; it allows for human effort and all other of the world’s religions.

Jesus says that narrow gate leads to a “hard” road, one that will take us through hardships and difficult decisions. Following Jesus requires crucifying our flesh (Galatians 2:20; 5:24; Romans 6:2), living by faith (Romans 1:17; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 10:38), enduring trials with Christlike patience (James 1:2–3, 12; 1 Peter 1:6), and living a lifestyle separate from the world (James 1:27; Romans 12:1–2). When faced with the choice between a narrow, bumpy road and a wide, paved highway, most of us choose the easier road. Human nature gravitates toward comfort and pleasure. When faced with the reality of denying themselves to follow Jesus, most people turn away (John 6:66). Jesus never sugar-coated the truth, and the truth is that not many people are willing to pay the price to follow Him.

God offers salvation to everyone who accepts it (John 1:12; 3:16–18; Romans 10:9; 1 John 2:2). But it is on His terms. We must come the way He has provided. We cannot create our own paths or come to a holy God based on our own efforts. Compared to His righteousness, we are all filthy (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10). God cannot simply excuse or overlook our sin. He is merciful, but He is also just. Justice requires that sin be paid for. At great cost to Himself, He paid that price (Isaiah 53:5; 1 John 3:1, 16; Psalm 51:7). Without the blood of Jesus covering our sin, we stand guilty before the God we rejected (Romans 1:20).

The way to God was completely closed, and sin was the roadblock (Romans 5:12). No one deserves a second chance. We all deserve to stay on the “wide road that leads to destruction.” But God loved us enough to provide the path to eternal life anyway (Romans 5:6–8). However, He also knows that in our self-centered, sin-saturated world there are not many who will desire Him enough to come to Him on His terms (John 6:44, 65; Romans 3:11; Jeremiah 29:13). Satan has paved the highway to hell with fleshly temptations, worldly attractions, and moral compromises. Most people allow their passions and desires to dictate the course of their lives. They choose temporary, earthly pleasure over the self-sacrifice required in following Jesus (Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; Matthew 10:37). The narrow gate is ignored. Most people would rather create their own religions and design their own gods. So it was with sorrow, not discrimination, that Jesus declared that the road to eternal life is “narrow, and only a few find it.”[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Topical Bible Questions: What Does the Bible Say about Child Sacrifice?

 

The horrific practice of child sacrifice has been committed throughout the world for thousands of years. Generally, the sacrifice of a child was intertwined with the worship of a pagan deity, often a fertility god. Worshipers sought to obtain a blessing from their god(s) or to confirm or complete a vow taken in the name of the god.

Ancient Aztecs, Incas, and a few other peoples in South and Central America practiced child sacrifice. The same for the Druids of Europe. The city of Carthage in North Africa contains evidence of child sacrifice related to the worship of Ba’al Hammon, a god imported from Phoenicia. Many Roman writers refer to this barbaric act in Carthage.

The Bible contains the heart-breaking tale of child sacrifice practiced in the name of Molech (also spelled Moloch or Molek), a god of the Ammonites. Molech worship was practiced by the Ammonites and Canaanites, who revered Molech as a protecting father figure. Images of Molech were made of bronze, and their outstretched arms were heated red-hot. Living children were then placed into the idol’s hands and died there or were rolled into a fire pit below. Some sources indicate a child might also be “passed through the fire” prior to the actual sacrifice in order to purify or baptize the child. Molech worship occurred in the Hinnom Valley near Jerusalem. Because of this, the valley became associated with the idea of Tophet, or hell (Isaiah 30:33; Jeremiah 19:12; Mark 9:45).

God prohibited Israel from child sacrifice in general and Molech worship in particular. Leviticus 20:2–5 states, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing in Israel who sacrifices any of his children to Molek is to be put to death. The members of the community are to stone him. I myself will set my face against him and will cut him off from his people; for by sacrificing his children to Molek, he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name. If the members of the community close their eyes when that man sacrifices one of his children to Molek and if they fail to put him to death, I myself will set my face against him and his family and will cut them off from their people together with all who follow him in prostituting themselves to Molek.’ ” Many other Old Testament passages affirm God’s zero-tolerance for child sacrifice.

Sadly, King Solomon became involved in this horrendous practice, as recorded in 1 Kings 11:4–11, “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD.… On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites.… The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD’s command.”

Later, the evil king Manassah offered his own son as a sacrifice (2 Kings 21:6), as did King Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:1–4). The people of Judah participated in this crime against their own sons—a sin so “detestable” that God said it had never even crossed His mind (Jeremiah 32:35). Child sacrifice was one reason for the Babylonian captivity (verse 36).

Some critics of the Bible point to the story of Abraham, who laid his son Isaac on an altar and prepared to sacrifice him as directed by God (Genesis 22:1–14). However, in this case, God was testing the obedience and faith of Abraham. God stopped him from actually following through and provided a ram as a substitute sacrifice.

Today, child sacrifice is practiced throughout the world. There has been a resurgence of child sacrifice in Uganda. Witch doctors have been implicated in the mutilation and death of children who were killed in an effort to bring good fortune and wealth to those willing to pay for it. There is also a correlation between child sacrifice and modern-day abortion. Unprecedented numbers of children have been “sacrificed” at the hands of abortionists for the sake of convenience, immorality, or pride. Hundreds of thousands of babies have been killed so that their parents can maintain a certain lifestyle. God hates “hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17), and we can be sure that God will judge this horrendous sin.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Forsaken Faith

(Thoughts on why an astounding number of college students are abandoning their faith in Christ)

The percentage of college students today who grow up in Christian homes and later turn their backs on Christ is stunning, almost beyond belief. I believe it’s vital that parents and church leaders understand some of the major reasons behind this trend—and know what they can do now to help their children prepare for the challenges ahead.

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CultureWatch: The Church On Sinking Sands

Obviously many things do not remain the same. Culture changes, society changes, and institutions change. The church is an institution – among other things – which certainly should not change, in some ways, while being able the change in others.

Obviously its core beliefs and message should not change. But its methods can and at times should change, to make the unchanging message more accessible to modern ears. The problem is, the surrounding culture often has far too much impact on the church, instead of the church having an impact on the culture.

Too often the world squeezes the church into its mould. Too often the church therefore capitulates, accommodates, compromises and sells out the gospel message in order to fit in with the world around it. When that happens we are all in big trouble indeed.

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The Vanishing Ecclesiology – Church & Culture Blog

In Serious Times, I noted that Christianity used to be rejected by Enlightenment intellectuals because they thought its central beliefs had been disproven by an unchanging and universal truth, meaning science or philosophy. But that today, Christianity tends to be disqualified on the grounds that it argues that an unchanging and universal truth even exists. In other words, a particular faith used to be wrong on the basis of what one perceived to be truth; now a faith is wrong for claiming there is such a thing.

A shift with interesting parallels is occurring in regard to ecclesiology. Traditional forms of church used to be rejected because they were outdated, archaic and irrelevant; or going back to the Reformation, because a particular form or ecclesial idea was found wanting in light of New Testament understandings. But the idea of church itself – not simply the church universal, but the church local – was never rejected. Now the very idea of a local church owning a rightful piece of the Kingdom economy is being challenged.

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Clergy From United Church of Christ Hand Out Condoms Outside Hobby Lobby To Protest Ruling

The stated mission of the Hobby Lobby case was to protect religious liberty, and different folks apparently have their own way of exercising their religious freedom. Clergy from the United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalists – both very liberal denominations – led a protest outside a Hobby Lobby in Aurora, Illinois, handing out condoms, the Daily Herald reported. ……. Click here for full story

Warning: Biblical Views May Cost Your Job – Chase Bank Surveys Staff For LGBT Loyalty

A second source has confirmed that JP Morgan Chase has asked each of its employees whether they are “an ally of the LGBT community,” which employees have taken as a veiled threat. This survey wasn’t anonymous. You had to enter your employee ID. With the way things are going and the fact that LGBT rights are being viewed as pretty much tantamount to the civil rights movement of the mid 50s to late 60s, not selecting that option is essentially saying “I’m not an ally of civil rights;” which is a vague way to say “I’m a bigot.” The worry among many of us is that those who didn’t select that poorly placed, irrelevant option will be placed on the “you can fire these people first” list…….. Click here for full story

Portland Looks To Block Children’s Christian Ministry – “Psychologically Harmful To Children”

A Christian nonprofit, Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), is facing opposition in Portland as it seeks to bring youth to Christ. The group’s “Good News Club” is being called “psychologically harmful to children” by a newly formed coalition – Protect Portland Children. The Good News Club is a youth ministry in which children are taught about sin, Jesus, and holiness through engaging songs, games, and Bible stories…….. Click here for full story

End Times Prophecy Headlines: July 7, 2014

End Times Prophecy Report

End Times Prophecy Report Headlines: Bible prophecy in Today's headlines. Bible prophecy in Today’s headlines.

End Times Prophecy Report
HEADLINES
July 7, 2014

CommentaryAnd OPINION

===INTERNATIONAL

ISRAEL: Israeli drone kills two Palestinians

ISRAEL:Jewish Extremists Arrested In Killing Of Jerusalem Teen

DUBAI: Dubai to build climate-controlled city

CHINA: 17 Coal Miners Trapped Underground In China – World’s deadliest mine…

IRAQ: ISIS leader addresses Muslims – The media is already referring to this guy as the “leader of the Islamic state.”  That didn’t take too long, did it?

NIGERIA:Over 50 Attackers Dead After Boko Haram Tries To Take Nigerian Bases

UKRAINE:Ukraine: Government Reportedly Wins Battle for Sloviansk

===NATIONAL

The presidency has become an elected monarch

All your children belong to us – When the state takes someone else’s kids, guys like this writer refer to it as the “Nanny State.” Like the government is really just an inconvenient nag telling you to tuck your shirt in–instead of a Leviathan…

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Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:1-4 ESV) 

I am sure when our Lord told His disciples on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 5:14-16), “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see…

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